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Interview and album walkthrough: Farflung- Like Drones In Honey (2022, Sulatron Records)

With the re-release of Farflung’s 1995 classic 25.000 Feet Per Second only last year it seems like Farflung has not been off our collective radars for a while, but in fact their last outing This Capsule was released over four years ago! Four years in which a lot can happen, like a freaking pandemic! Luckily our four spacemen can travel space and time, and will not be held back by distance or time. Even with lyricist and guitarist Michael Esther living on another continent (Europe) and the rest of the band in Los Angeles, USA Farflung kept on writing and recording. The result is no joke! Like Drones In Honey feels in everything like a full band operating with all engines running full speed. There is Hawkwind worshipping space rock madness, there is postpunk tripping, there are full blown weirdo experiments fueled by nightly escapades in the Californian desert…in other words, not much has changed.

But hey! Why take my word for it when you can have the full band explaining what is going on in your ears when you are listening to the new album? Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, and Chris Nakata were kind enough to spend some time describing their thoughts on the writing process, and ultimately on taking a full blown walk through the album. So buckle up, it’s going to be a spacey ride…

Hi guys! First of all: how are you and how have you been since last time we spoke? (at the re-release of 25.000 ft per second LP in January this year).

Paul: Hi there. Things have calmed down after turbulent times; the pandemic, the death of my father, collapsing relationships, but those struggles have passed.  Now it’s mellow vibes on the West Side.  We did an interview the other day and it wasn’t until I saw the other guy’s faces that I realized how much I miss seeing my Farflung brothers.  We were so happy to see each other!  I’m pleased that Like Drones in Honey has officially released.  Stoked to be on Sulatron!!!  Dave rules!!

Michael: Things are ok here. Not much has changed…working on the music and art… hoping for more positivity in the world…

Tommy: Things have been good. I ‘we’ve’ been very happy working with Dave at Sulatron, and the releases that have come out so far. I was glad to do it, and with all the guys to come up with the concept and artwork for the new lp , and the groups overall construction on the mixes and vibe of it all. There’s new things on the back burner and ideas are already starting to formulate. There were also a couple of interesting sessions out at Saturn Moon (Nakata’s studio in Yukka valley] and I’ve been working on ideas out here in Woodstock, NY. I hope to get out to the desert to see Chris and Paul soon to continue with things. Out here in the Catskills, NY, things slow way down in winter, so I’ve been taking Jobs here and there to prep for it. This is quite a contrast to the Covid shutdown of the recent past. I’ve also been working with a local cinema, and record store, putting on events that are live music to film, or visual to music also. We’ve had some great artists involved and it’s been a great experience. I also built a small print shop and have been making posters and shirts, sleeves, for the event, and other things. Yes, been a quite busy year so far. 

The new album has been finished for quite a while, right? Can you tell me about the writing and recording process

Paul: From my angle the process was, and the product is, pure ecstasy in the Greek meaning: “entrancement, astonishment, insanity; any displacement or removal from the proper place”. The time of recording this LP is the most free that I have ever felt making a record. 100% the process for me was to disassociate from the pandemic and it’s ripple effects.  To me (us?) it’s sculpture and collage, improv avant-freedom-rock, no boundaries.  We create & capture everything; the deeply psychedelic and confrontational, the perfect and the sublime, the incorrect and the wrong. Add in existential void screaming, found sound, field recordings, then exploit our limitations, then add in a dash of kosmische moon howling.  Reverse everything and start over. 

Michael: It’s different than it was years ago…seeing that we are spread across the globe… from my side… the difficult thing is and the thing I miss most is all of us being in the studio at the same time…. we trade track ideas and overdubs back and forth via the internet and Chris does his magic… 

Tommy: Well this will be a long answer, but ~Most of it started  at Tarantula Ranch [my wife Abby Travis’s old studio in Los Angeles]. It was an interesting time. We ‘were already prepping to pull up anchor and leave that city. Abby was on tour and the studio was basically 3/4 gutted of stuff for the move. All that remained was faulty equipment, pieces of drum kits, stuff too sell, low grade amps and dodgy synth gear. Chris had a mobile pro tools unit he would slung around to jam sessions, and brought it over and set it up. We had no planning, just, let’s try to use what’s here and if it’s crappy sounding well so be it. It turned out to be quite the challenge and totally rewarding. Chris basically duct taped and bolted a kit together using what was around into a rather strange set. He also just set up things to hit that would give off sound.  Me and Paul chained our gear together and experimented with the tweaky ramshackle amps to get tones. Between what was glitchy and operating, and with the rather bizarre keyboard selection Chris had at Saturn Moon, I created the synth pad arena. Last but not least, Skott Rusch, old time Farflung, when science fails guitar psych-scaper, showed up with the wired out troglodonic noisemaker, and generators amongst everything else. Mean while in Italy Michael was conjuring strange worlds and patterns at his mobile unit, that would be transmitted to our radar station of sorts. I think this all started around may of 2019. It certainly was not an album session as many of Farflung’s were, but just another field of experimentation. Sessions were whoosey, and magical. It seemed like we’re we’re on another off charts adventure with the band. Sonically, it was an experimentation on a new level for me. I’d like to think Farflung has never been a slave to a genre, even though sometimes we’ve been pigeonholed to it by certain folk, but that’s ok. Whatever there pleasure is. We have never been interested in trends or tags, and this compendium of tracks is clear of that on this lp. Coincidentally, Chris was living in Los Angeles, and that is where the original Saturn Moon was. I’ve spoken about that wonderful lab before, but Chris also pulled up anchor, and found a place to set up studio in Yucca valley . It was a bit later, but we got together and started to flesh out the tracks more into song there. I did not bring any gear really, Just used what Chris had there. We were also joined by Bobby Lee [moso groto] who had played a bit on the original sessions. He put down some great low and driving stuff on a couple of the tracks, and he’s an all all round swell guy. After some long walks in the desert and “stimulation” later, we were laying down the vocals and finishing touches to the tracks from Mike’s emu3 in Italy, and the Los Angeles, and Yucca sessions . We Mixed remotely, but had a good idea of what it should be like. Chris doing most of the honors on that end.  

Can you both tell me your favorite thing about the album and why?

Tommy: To me it’s a natural continuation of This Capsule, the previous LP. It felt like it should be. It does go off in its own tangent here and there but they still seem related. The same is reflected in the look and artwork continued in a more sparse and forward visual. We have also become tighter with friends and family. Everyone put a lot into it and I can feel it. I sure the next one will be quite different, but for now this is still the focus. My favorite tracks are King Fright and Tiny Cities [best section is the end of side one, where it really levitates to me.] it’s in the sound on there very clear. I don’t think anyone who has followed what we do will not see that’s but essentially, we [I] also do it for ourselves own goal. 

Paul: My favorite thing about the album is the journey.  I prefer to listen to the whole LP in a sitting with headphones. Like when I was a kid listening to LPs, hyper focused on every detail.  It’s a love letter to decay and collapse from wizened survivors. 

What can you tell me about the title Like Drones To Honey?

Michael: We were tossing ideas around and this one worked… I like the open reading possibility of the word drone…(a bee, a sound, a flying device). I think about recording in terms of layers of sound… of ideas that come together and arrive at a song, then a group of songs, then album artwork that solidifies into an object..  sonic and physical…Bees carrying pollen flower to flower…Honey as residue… similar to the way in which ideas float person to person…thought as a productive function of the body…a type of secretion……all these types of things I’ve been fascinated with for years….  it just worked for this album

Tommy: I think Michael came up with it.  There was a photo of a woman laughing in a garden by photographer Peter Graham we were going to use, but I don’t think it was in a place were the label were too excited about it. I ended up making collages around the title. It was a lot of fun and I like doing things by hand and not on a computer. I liked the triple meaning of the LP title, a kind of calvertesque sci fi vibe to it. Drunken workers floating in the mead, mind bombs gliding without fuel, the sound of open chords together, something like that.

Paul: We started it in May 2019 without a hint of what would happen 6 months later.  At that point we were personally undergoing a ton of changes; Chris moving out of LA to the desert, Tommy moving to Woodstock after living in LA for so many years, and I had just moved back here after living overseas for a long time. Mikey had a lot going on in Italy.  A lot of major changes with us were already underway.  A good portion of the music was recorded during the height of the pandemic, so there was a lot of strange feelings happening all around us, which the music captures.  A lot of fear/uncertainty/doubt permeating the atmosphere. The music and the rituals around the music making were a bright spot during that period, but it was very dark and isolating time for everyone.  Like Drones in Honey was a coping mechanism for me (us?). 

On to the walkthrough: let’s go through all the songs of the album and their meaning:

  • Acid Drain

Tommy: Lyrically, someone I knew had passed away from dementia, and did not receive much needed help. She left a great sweetness behind her in her past, so both things colliding there a bit. Musically, a little nod to Can, but definitely also one of my favorite movies, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, all those ominous melodies creating a weird score. That was the first track recoded We believe. Paul’s Pro One making fuzzy bass freak outs on the chorus, and lots of vocal mayhem. 

Paul:

Perfect start “klingggg” 

3 tix to CS

Tremmmy guitars and pings, such a swirl happening

Gut punches and screams

Pro~One sweepszzzz

A rich tapestry of tones, zones zones zones zones zones zones zones

Chris: Yes, this was the first track we recorded. I remember familiarizing myself with the drums, and liking them. Tommy was excited by the sound from the start. That was a great way to begin, and pretty much set the tone for much of the album. I can still see Paul, peering at me through the small opening of the hood of his hoodie, zipped up to the top because it was cold in the garage, his wide eyes growing even larger from the massive sound of his synth.

  • Earthmen Look Alike To Me

Chris: This one seemed to go down quickly. Just a lot of fun. Tommy could often be seen shaking his butt to this one during playback.

Tommy: Moving to the Catskills forests in autumn  was mystical and surreal being in a big city for so long. There was a big male red bull cardinal who would fly into the windows dawn till dusk relentlessly waking us to explore things early, very early. The silence, and sounds of trees and animals that has become normal now. We had discovered weird rock formations on the property that were were told to be paleo Indian. It was magical an foreboding. The title was a working title, and the lyrics came much later, so it just stuck with a quote from and old analog, pulp novel.  The musical session was a big jam. I was channeling RCA period Hawkwind a little I think. Then it just goes into Farflung, it reminds me a lot of what a session from us in the 90s would of sounded like. 

Paul:

Sick Casio beat into Uncontrollable Urge acoustic

Super sick turnaround

50 tracks of guitars, or 50,000?

Chrome-esque Helios-y ‘Destroyed My Brain” turnaround is incredible 

  • King Fright

Tommy: Mike’s original track, overdubbed by the rest of us, then mike back on it again. Lyrically the main thread is Michael. I interpreted it as having an almost Nick Cave vibe to it, but the retort that I vocalized came off rather PIL in a weird way. Political PIL meets Crass ha ha. The sound in the beginning is an old printing rack slamming and creaking with me being, well drunk, blabbering . Chris was percussively playing his whole kitchen on that track. 

Paul:

Another fooking amazing Mikey Surprise

Turns into a face puncher

Diamond nipples

Then the bells, so many bells, bells and swirls

Fuzzy chuggzzz 

GREEN HAS LEFT THE BORDER

Chris: Basically, a back-and-forth between Michael and Tommy. A great juxtaposition, and very gratifying to lay down tracks on this.

  • Tiny Cities Made Of Broken Teeth

Tommy: I was sitting in an old art warehouse in Woodstock, in the middle of winter looking out into a dead frozen woods surrounded by water. It truly looked like an alien planetscape. I thought about how life almost dies but is dormant, in a dream state we can’t imagine.  I was listening to a lot of old dub at the time, and there was a cinematic vibe to the jam. We were a little confused what to do with it, but one night a layering session in the desert just blossomed and we’re were all lying around just spacing on it. It just came to be like that. Two worlds collide, and end with someone standing on a flyover in Los Angeles in the rain. Past future present. 

Chris: A very soothing trip. Such a groovy bass from Bobby. In the last section, Tommy hummed the bassline for me to play, and I really liked the orchestral sound of the bass part. Then, Michael sent his parts with such an orchestral approach, fermenting the gentle crescendo that allows for the exhale to end the side.

Paul:

From where do these seeds sprout?

I’ve hitched my space-steed to the goddamn ring mod on this one

Early Pink Floyd chord progressions

Michael’s slide, perfect as always

The tremolo guitar has so much sustain

The ending is straight off of a LA ’68 Love re-issue

Soo psychedelic 

  • Dludgebmasterpoede

Chris: Honestly, I wasn’t sure where this one was going, but somehow Tommy’s other-worldly mind managed to bring it all together. Originally, a working title (again, from Tommy’s mind) that I insisted on keeping.  Resistant at first, Tommy relented after he saw how particular I was about the original spelling and pronunciation.

Tommy: 3 sessions fused into one, but strangely , also recorded in that order. I really love Manuel Göttsching‘s inventions for electric guitar, and it’s funny that, well, I always thought Steve Hillage’s, Rainbow Dome Music LP is also related musically. I got this new guitar pedal thing in the mail, that just happened to sound like that and went for it. Old Farflung luminary Skott Rusch [hunting lodge] just happed to  be around and added his trogotronic transmission device to the whole track, levitating it out of orbit. Part two, a little Rudimentary Peni vibe on it. Just a great fun punk moment for us that’s always there. Paul phrased “self cleaning oven” as a way that nature gets rid of an irritating presence on its skin, the rest of the lyrics just ran in. Title ? No idea. 

Paul:

Infinite pings and unceasing pongs

glissando guide master Michael

Chirps, tweets, and sweeps

Jaki Liebezeit beat to the T 

Delay 68 Can meets Heldon 

With INSANE turnaround after “OKAYYYYY!!!!”

The teeth on that guitar and the drummer, Jesus what a drummer . . .

Sneaky fucker on bass, the balls on that kid performing those sick runs

A SELF CLEANING OVEN – a lack of empathy will destroy us

  • Baile an Doire

Tommy: I always thought some surf music sounded kinda Celtic, or euro ethnic. Or maybe it had an influence on it in the 60s, probably the latter, anyhow always loved the rousing element to it. We laid down the track and thought it was also kinda goth sounding. My grandparents some aunts uncles spoke a little Gaelic, and I remembered the pigeon English that would happen after a few drinks behind the piano or even transistor in the kitchen. I was burnt out that day and could not come up with any theme or idea, so I started to run off in that banter. Paul and Chris both loved it, but also we’re amused by it. I decided, why not. the rousing tribal drums almost sound like a battle call and I  was reminded of an area where I grew up, where the river crossed into the Lough Neagh through an oak wood. I used to go fishing there.  But I was told a site of great turmoil. If you’re up for some history, look it up, Baile an Doire,  Ballinderry.  Just probably channeling spirits, of sorts.  

Chris: My main memory is the night we recorded vocals. As soon as Tommy started singing in this style, we knew it was right. Or was it? Who knows. All I know is that Paul and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Paul:

Why don’t you try the lyrics in Gælic?”

Turns into a Killing Joke song

Who did the haunting lead?

All of a sudden it is an Echo & The Bunnymen song

Absurdddd-uuu ringgggg-uuuu moddd–uu klannnnggzzz

Into bliss

The forever-ending is too beautiful

  • Touch of the Lemmings Kiss

Tommy: Mikes lyrics. Sounded ominous and soothing. Felt like I was lying down in a meadow somewhere, waiting for it to end. 

Paul:

Mikey flying in from a deep and beautiful place to give us his blessings

Dolce piano pianissimo 

Goddamn always with the bombers, love it!

Chris: Michael’s tracks were trippy and didn’t need much, really. We just added a few instruments here and there.

  • A Year In Japan

Chris: A late-night video-call led to making the background for Tommy’s whispers.

Tommy: Talking birds in the forest one night. I just recorded me speaking back to them after enjoying things I found to eat there. These birds fly to japan in winter. Hope they took my message. I miss Japan a bit. Would like to go there again. Very different. 

Paul:

Beefheart gone wild

Right into a later Wire song

What are your immediate future plans? (hoping for some tours!!!)

Paul: The immediate plan that I want to happen is for all of us to hang out in person again.  It’s been far too long.  A tour will happen at some point after all the uncertainty dissipates. Until then I’m good to stay in the studio and work on the next batch of songs.

Michael: It would be great to tour. We have to see how things shake out ….

Tommy: Oh boy I don’t know. I’d do it with Sula Bassana or a Dave Sulatron thing. Cosmic minds, for like minds. Good vibes, no neg stuff. We play better when it’s connected. I’m kinda over the random stoner rock night out, and we’re the lemon band not riffing off 3 bars to hard shit. I’m not that into getting sick on the road either. We’ll see. I’d love to travel with my friends, no pressure no worries. We’re a bit older, just don’t want to be away from home and sick. That may not sound very rock n roll, but fuck that shit. I don’t care. Recording stuff can be way too much fun sometimes. Especially with the guys in Yucca valley, and Milan. 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?

Michael: It’s difficult times these days in the world…I’d say, produce some joy. Think of joy as a  transformational act… 

Tommy: Do whatever is possible to support the true people to end this global tyranny wherever you are, and also support those who do it. It’s a frightening world, and I’m very concerned for the next generations. There’s no way you can’t be concerned about that. Things have to be better than this. 

Paul: Give Like Drones in Honey a spin and ride the cosmic tides.  Then head out into nature. 

Review + Q&A: Sula Bassana- Nostalgia (2022, Sulatron Records)

Nostalgia, the yearning for a bygone era. An era perhaps without all the incentives and stimuli of these modern times. A world without mobile phones, social media, or even the internet. A world in fact, that not so very long ago was a reality. In the 90s we had to find new music through magazines, word of mouth, real live contact, live shows, or by listening to mix tapes that we made for each other. It was the time of great excitement when crate digging and finding stuff you never heard before, and a time of full venues and bristling underground festivals…

A time you understand a guy like Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt yearns for. He lives by himself now, in a forest-y area of Germany and composes music for himself, for his bands Zone Six and sometimes other projects. But the times of the 90s, that time of true underground excitement, even before he lifted of the ground with Electric Moon and shone, that time will never come back. It seeps through the music on this album, from the grand cinematic post doom opening tones of Real Life, to the indie rock anthem We Will Make It, reminiscent of unsung 90s post hardcore heroes Slint, Sonic Youth, and Lungfish. It’s music that is quiet in all its heavy fuzziness. It has a warm glowing energy about it, but it is burning for the past, and through this fire it bears a heartbreaking melancholy too. For these times will never come back, and “the world has gotten itself in a goddamn hurry” to paraphrase one of my favorite movies of all time, Shawshank Redemption…

Sula Bassana will not follow in this rush of modern times. He will go his own tempo or no tempo at all. His stubborn creativity shines through his love of the music he makes, the effort he puts in it, his desperate attempts to preserve some of that glow that he felt in the early 90s and that slowly lost a lot of its magic but that also somehow still perseveres. That is Nostalgia; it harks back to the good old days, but it also stands strongly in the present. It is an album that could not have been made then, it is also very much now. Through all its reminiscing and melancholy that is in fact an uplifting message, and I am sure the deep diving listeners will agree that after relishing in it for all of its mesmerizing 42 minutes, you will invigorated and are ready for more.

Zone Six

I had to speak to Dave Schmidt again. The pandemic “ended” since last time we spoke, he left his longstanding band Electric Moon, and the world had gotten a lot more challenging for small underground labels like his bread and butter Sulatron Records. And now this brilliant new album, here is what he said about that…

How have you been since we last spoke in December of last year?
With the start of the war against Ukraine the sales went even lower, but the production prices rose a lot, so life for a small but professional indie label like mine became pretty hard. But we started recordings for a new album with Zone Six. It was short time after the war started, so it became dark and heavy. We try to go on working on it soon, but bureaucracy rose too so I have a lot of shitty office stuff to do and less time to be creative. My new album arrived and promotion started and soon I will ship all pre-ordered copies out etc. You see there is always work. 🙂 Also I went to concerts and festivals as a visitor, spend much time with friends and enjoy life. And I found 3 very cool other musicians to form my Sula Bassana Band and we start rehearsing soon and want to rock the nice stages in Europe from next year on. 🙂 This gives me a lot of good feel and power.

You mentioned back then you were burnt out, are you feeling better, and/or how are you dealing with that?
I’m still off power very fast and need a lot of rest. Now I also recover from Corona which makes me even less powerful. But I hope I will find back my energy soon.

In the meanwhile you quit Electric Moon, would you like to elaborate on that decision? Do you feel it is over for good or is there room for a reunion at some point?
I went off the band for private/personal reasons. Maybe we will be ready for a concert together in a bunch of years or so. No idea, and I focus on new things, especially my own band.

When one door closes, others open, right? I heard about your new project with Ax Genrich? What can you tell us about that?
Exactly! I guess I haven’t seen Ax Genrich since our last gig with Psychedelic Monsterjam (or Neumeier, Genrich, Schmidt) in 2006 (at Burg Herzberg Festival) but met him on the Take Me To The Moon Festival a few months ago and we decided to make music again. At the same festival I met Steff Bollack again after many years and met Conni Maly. So we had the idea to do something together which led to the new project called Die Raumpatrouille, and to our first concert in November. This will be completely improvised krautrock and I’m really looking forward to this gig and hope we will go on then. Last weekend I joined Ax Genrich and his band for a little jam at their show in Kassel, at the Free Flow Festival, and it was soooo good to spend time with Ax! And the jam was great too.

Let’s go on to Nostalgia, your new album. What can you tell me of the recording sessions?
I started recording new songs in 2013 when my freshly bought Mellotron arrived, sadly only the new digital one, sampled from the original mastertapes from the sixties. Anyway, I love these sounds so much and recorded a track instantly (Mellotraum). Later I recorded more tracks here and there which not fitted to other albums, so I collected them and decided they fit perfectly for a album. But man, 2 of them were real songs, where I need vocals. And writing lyrics is definitely not my superpower, hahahhaha. So they stayed unfinished for years. And in late 2021 I forced myself to finish them, what I did. The title track based on a guitar-theme I had in mind since the early 2000’s, but it changed to a Mellotron dominated track. In 2015 I played around with my Korg Polysix (a early 80’s synthesizer) a few days before the first Electric Moon concert at the Planetarium Bochum, where I used this synth. I found a nice arpeggio thing and recorded it without knowing what to do with it. Some days later, at the mentioned concert, the synth died due to the leaking memory-battery (you can hear that in the first song of the concert: https://electric-moon.bandcamp.com/track/the-last-words-of-mister-p). Later I added drums, bass, guitars and more sounds around the arpeggio and the result became one of my favourite songs of the last years. 🙂

Who was involved apart from you and what did they contribute?
Musically I did everything alone. But for mastering Eroc did his great work again and for the cover I used a fantastic painting by french painter Hervé Scott Flament. I also used some pix a friend did (Kilian CabGuy) and the title font painted by Ryan Koster.

A song like We Will Make It has a strong 90s feel, it kind of made me think of Slint, one of my favorite records from that time! Do you know them and do you feel the same?
To be honest I don’t know Slint. Will search and listen to it. After recording the basic guitars it reminded me a bit of Sonic Youth, what I heard a lot that time (around 2016 or so, when I did the recordings). Back in the 90s I was much more into electronic music first and then into late sixties and early seventies psych, kraut and space rock. Haven’t heard much of the 90s music.

I’d say the general mood of the album is quite melancholic, was that intentional? Can you recall what brought that up at the time?
I’m a very melancholic person. I guess you can hear it in a lot of my music. And the words in these 2 songs with vocals are impressed by the feel of these times…

Will you play any of it live? And when in which band will we be able to see you live soon?
There are too many things going on on that album, that I don’t think a four piece can nicely perform these tracks. But we will rehearse some older Sula “classics” and some more new songs. Also I want to play much more with my old bands Zone Six and Interkosmos. And of course with Die Raumpatrouille.

Would you like to pitch any upcoming Sulatron Records releases? What should we be looking out for?
There will be the new Farflung album Like Drones In Honey out in October (hopefully) on CD and LP. And I just received the testpressings for the debut LP Echo Colonnade by Ukranian krautrockers Reflector and listen to them right now. Sounds
great on vinyl! :-). In the same package I got the testpressings of the split LP of Speck (The Metz Sessions) and Interkosmos! Both LPs will be out in early 2023. And Tetrao Urogallus from Hamburg work on their new LP right now which will be released next year too.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?
Hug someone, spread love and listen to great music. 🙂

Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt

Upcoming Gigs:
With ZONE SIX:
02.09.22 GER-Bielefeld, Potemkin Bar
With DIE RAUMPATROUILLE:
10.11.22 GER-Heidelberg, Commissary PHV (South-Gettysburg Avenue 45)

Find Sula Bassana and his projects here:
http://www.sulatron.com
http://www.facebook.com/Sulatron.Records
https://www.facebook.com/groups/573333580261594
http://www.soundcloud.com/sulatron
https://www.instagram.com/sulatron_records
http://www.sulabassana.de
http://www.sulabassana.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/sulabassana
https://www.instagram.com/sula_bassana_music
http://www.zonesix.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/zone_six_official
https://www.facebook.com/zonesixz6
http://www.zonesix.de
http://www.interkosmos-official.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/interkosmos_official
https://www.facebook.com/interkosmosofficial

Zone Six- Beautiful EP (re-release 2022. Sulatron Records)

A long time ago, in December 1997 to be precise, a couple of gifted musicians found each other and started jamming. They jammed for hours and hours, and decided that they would name themselves Zone Six. At that time the band consisted of a couple of ex-Liquid Vision members (Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, Hans-Peter Ringholz, and Claus Bühler), a keyboard player named Rusty, and an amazing female singer from Australia by the name of Jodi Barry. The EP pretty much revolves around her Portishead-like story telling, while the band anticipates and weaves its patterns of psychedelic triphop jamming.

The EP starts off with Something’s Missing, a mysteriously spiraling thing, that strangely resonates the lyrics “Beautiful” throughout its ten minute haze. Jodi Barry’s vocals are of a mystique subdued beauty that fits the mystery. The lyrics forbode the next song Beautiful, which is a twelve minute triphop piece revolving around Jodi Barry telling her creeped out story about Jack and Jill. It is quite a different piece to anything Zone Six did before or after, but that’s also the cool thing about it. It makes you wonder what this amazing vocalist did after Zone Six, apparently she moved back to Australia but I cannot find anything else…

I guess it is a fitting final mystery for this hazy little gem, which will be released on “beautiful” green vinyl by Sulatron Records. An obligatory buy for later krautrock completist to say the least.

Review and Interview: Um Corpo Estranho e Saturnia- O Místico Orfeão Sónico (2021 Malafamado Records)

Perhaps one of the most underrated and unnoticed releases of last year was this gem of a collaboration by Portuguese psych wizard Saturnia and Setúbal stoner rockers Um Corpo Estranho. Together they have created a perfectly exotic mixture of psychedelic space rock and desert rock tribalism, all sang in their native tongue Portuguese, which gives the album an outlandish and mystical feel.

The music runs the gamut between hazy and rhythmic desert rock that at times reminds of Queens Of The Stone Age at their dreamiest, and folky tribalist space rock on the other side, definitely more the Saturnia influence on it all. Of course Luís Simōes’s sitar plays an important role, but Um Corpo Estranho‘s rhythmic approach and multiple vocals layers definitely add to a rich more = more approach that works terrifically well for this project.

Perhaps the only big mistake these brilliant Portuguese artist made is that they did not bother to market their album outside their home country much. That’s why a lot of psychedelic and hazy rock appreciators out there will unfortunately miss out on this gem. So in order to counter some of that error I contacted Luís Simōes to talk about his life and about this great record he made. This is what he had to say:

How have you been these past Corona times? Has it affected your musical career in any way, and if so how?

Luís Simões – I’ve been OK, as Saturnia is primarily an artist that mainly does albums and I don’t play live a lot, it didn’t really affected me that much; I did a one off unique presentation for a film festival over here in Setúbal and two special shows with O Místico Orfeão Sónico.

My internet activity increased significantly, and at a certain point, my CD and LP sales had a boost. As I am basically a loner, the confinement that the authorities forced had little difference from my usual day-to-day life. I know a few people who got COVID really hard, and sadly, I lost a relative.

You released two brilliant records last year: Stranded In The Green as Saturnia, and a great collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho, congratulations! How have the responses been so far?

Luís Simões – Thank you very much for your kind words.

The reactions have been very good. Stranded in the Green had a very good response from both the public and the press, even more so than usual. I think it’s one of the best works in my discography and it shows. The O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho also had great reactions.

Can you tell me what your average day looks like? How do you keep creative?

Luís Simões -Well, there is really no specific usual routine. I basically hang around with my set up always ready to record and when something comes up, I just try to capture it. That’s it. My mind and spirit are permanently wandering and drifting into odd interior universes, creating fantasies and plots of a conceptual, visual, lyrical, and musical nature. It has been like that all my life, it’s the way I am. In my experience, you should never force creation; instead, you should always be open and ready to pick up when the muses grace you with their presence.​

Can you tell me about where you live in Portugal, and how it affects your music?

Luís Simões – I am from Linda-a-Velha a middle class suburb of Lisbon, known for its Hardcore scene but I’ve been living in Setúbal, the first main city one hour drive south of Lisbon, since 2007. When I was in Lisbon the vibe was more uptight and I was much more an alienated bedroom suburban dreamer, maybe because of the snobbery of the capital, everybody just pretends to be cool, I never liked the poseur-ism…
I love Lisbon but Setúbal is a city that retained its more traditional vibe, I feel really comfortable and have a real sense of belonging, I have real countryside, beach and mountain nearby, not to mention the wine… So, since the Alpha Omega Alpha album I think my music became much more pleasurable and total because I live in a much more pleasant place.

What can you tell me about Saturnia, how did you start it, how did you get into contact with record labels, how did you decide on your style and sound?

Luís Simões – I started Saturnia in a period when I needed to work in a different way that I had worked up until then, which was a Heavy Metal, Rock modus operandi. I was tired of being locked all day long inside a dark room with a couple of guys, just banging away in a noisy atmosphere. For several reasons, not just musical, I needed peace of mind and had to go in another direction.


Initially, I had no real Stylistic plan, I just wanted to work from home and do a type of music that happened naturally and felt good, picking a few elements from several types of music, mainly Psychedelic and Space Rock and to a much lesser extent Prog. Saturnia always had many influences, that range from indo-Jazz to Classic through easy listening, ambient Electronica and musique concrete.


Initially I meant Saturnia to be like a multimedia artistic collective, but I quickly realized that it would be wiser to just stick to a more orthodox band format, but as time went by I just started doing everything on my own and Saturnia turned into a one man band with some friends helping out on live shows. Curiously, although early Saturnia was consciously a bit removed from Rock, with the passage of time my Rock roots worked their way back in and what Saturnia is now, and has been since the Muzak album, it’s pretty much inside the area of what is traditional Rock music.

Your collaboration with Um Corpo Estranho is very special, as it brings together two unique sounds and really melts it into one. How did the two bands find each other and how did you decide to make this record?

Luís Simões – Me and Pedro Franco, guitarist of Um Corpo Estranho, just kept bumping into each other over here in the Setúbal night scene and talking for hours and hours about our favorite music and bands and also about music gear and general instrument fetishism. It was always clear that we could do something together and at a certain point they had a song that they wanted some sitar in and that was what triggered the whole process.

We started to work together, sharing ideas and then we realized we had a full album in our hands, it really happened that naturally.
This O Místico Orfeão Sónico album with Um Corpo Estranho is one of those situations when you never know where things are going, just take a chance based purely on feeling and hope for the best. We fused naturally and it was a pleasure to surprise them and be surprised by them. I think the result is quite unique and we did a very strong album at a level that Portuguese music hasn’t really heard for quite a while.

Can you tell me about the beautiful artwork and the lyrical concept? As I don’t understand much or any Portugese I feel like some explanation is very welcome 🙂

Luís Simões – The cover was made by Illustrator Paulo Buchinho, he did a colorful composition with elements of our own personal universe and some Setúbal historic references such as eighteenth century Arcadian poet Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage and lyrical Singer Luísa Todi. Lyrically the album is a loose concept about Setúbal and its river Sado with Classic mythology and Tarot mixed with our own personal experiences.

The album has a great production and sound, and the songs are really good too. Still, the release felt a bit restricted to Portugal only, was that intentional? I feel like a lot more people would be enjoying this if they knew about it!

Luís Simões – Thank you for your kind words.
Yes, it was intentional, we see this record mainly as a Portuguese experience that is why we never even looked for any distribution, its a boutique thing, we have the album and sell it ourselves and that’s it. I agree, this album has qualities that could reach a very wide public.

Can you tell me about your future plans? Was the album with Um Corpo Estranho a “one off”? Will there be more live shows also in Europe? Will there be a new Saturnia album? Anything!

Luís Simões – Although for the O Místico Orfeão Sónico we never thought of doing more than one album, we already got carried away and we do have new material, if this turns into another album or not its still early to say. Yes, there Will be a new Saturnia album, i have lots of material for a new album but everything is still at an early stage. Regarding concerts with O Místico Orfeão Sónico outside Portugal I don’t think that’s possible due to everybody’s agenda.


Regarding Saturnia, I would truly love to tour Europe constantly but without some sort of agency or booking structure support, which I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to find for years, that is just not possible. That is one of the main reasons why Saturnia is mainly an album artist and not so much a live artist.

What is your ultimate life goal, personally or musically?

Luís Simões – To be free, to do art which is authentic, honest, pertinent, based on instinct and intuition but crafted with Intelligence with intrinsic quality regardless of any opinions or trends. I don’t really separate personal from artistic that much but on a personal level its the same.

Who are your heroes and inspiration?

Luís Simões – I have respect for a lot of different artists and I am a fan of lots of things in art in general and music in particular but i am simultaneously also very critical of my heroes and to a certain point an iconoclast.


What I mean is that I don’t love all albums by my favorite bands, when something sucks, it just sucks, I can’t and won’t brainwash myself to love something I don’t love.
Some of my main references: Johann Sebastian BachNik Turner, Bill BruffordSteve HarrisRay Manzarek, Mike Rutherford, Klaus Schulze.

What will you do after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine readers do? (and especially: where should they go if they want to buy your records?)

Luís Simões – Well, after this I’m going to finish the mixes for a live show of O Místico Orfeão Sónico that my friend, film maker João Bordeira kindly filmed in January, I’m also remastering the second Saturnia album, The Glitter Odd, for a possible special LP limited release and start organizing the new material I got for a new Saturnia album.
Weirdo Shrine readers should do whatever they like and just keep it Weirdo!!!
To get our albums the best thing is to contact Dave Schmidt on Sulatron records or myself through our respective websites or Facebook.

Q&A with Farflung- 25.000 Feet Per Second (2022 Sulatron Records vinyl re-release)

To travel space is to travel time. Modern day space rockers have always also traveled back in time a bit, specifically to the 1970s when krautrock sprouted from bands like Can, Neu!, and space rock started coming up with the legendary Hawkwind featuring a certain mr Lemmy Kilmister…Farflung is very much aware of this history, being around for quite some time themselves already. Now they are returning to the international stages through the vinyl re-release of their stellar 1995 debut album 25.000 Feet Per Second on Sulatron Records. Cause for celebration of course, and for an elaborate chat with the band’s main two members Tommy Grenas and Michael Esther. Better buckle up for this one, because it is going to be quite a trip into the past and present of this space rock institution!

Can you tell me how you have managed as a musician during the corona crisis so far? In what way(s) has it affected your ways?

Michael:
it has changed everything here. We live in a small town in Italy close to the first epicenter of the pandemic. It’s been really difficult and I worry about how it will effect the independent music scene and what it will look like going forward….
In terms of my own creative practice, the current  vibe has affected it in what ways I am not sure. I will need  a bit of distance, a bit of of time to see in what manner it shaped things.

Tommy:
It did not really effect me that much for a couple of reasons. I moved away from the big city [Los Angeles] about 3 years ago to Ulster county, NY, in the Catskills, and it’s in the forest on the side of a mountain, kinda isolated. I still go back to Los Angeles to do non musical work to keep me financially afloat.

Farflung has never really earned the band much money, and I do get some small royalties from the many Lps and Eps released over the years, but I certainly don’t make any sort of living from it. The band is also spread around the globe a bit, so we don’t just get together and play a lot of shows either. This is the way it’s usually been for quite a while.

It has not ‘Artistically, ‘ affected us either. Michael works on ideas and music in Milan mostly, and I pen lyrics, flesh ideas out and write mostly play riffs, melodies on guitar and make note of them when the urge takes me. As I said I travel to LA to work, and at the end of a job, meet up at Farflung’s 2nd home now’ “Saturn moon “ studios in Yucca Valley, the high desert. I’m joined there by Chris’s Nakatta, owner, multi musican, engineer, and Farflung drummer. Also longtime guitarist and swell guy, Paul Hisher meets up to add to whatever gets created. The core drums, guitar and bass is laid down, and then we flesh it all out between Milan, NY, and Yucca to create something.

We rarely play in the States. I’m just not really into doing that here. But we do love playing in Europe. We usually play at least every couple of years there, and that’s where Corona virus effected us. Unavoidable really, but I have to say we’re not like a lot of bands that heavily rely on that. I really do feel for other musicians and our booking company IBD, who must have suffered through it. We’ll be out again when it passes I hope.

Can you tell me a little bit of where and how you guys live and how you usually go
about your day?

Tommy:

I usually go for a long hike with my dog into the forest, and to the bottom of the small mountain I live on. It takes me through the trees and along streams , rivers ,rock formations and shady areas where I can find mushrooms and plants to take home . After that I usually call into Los Angeles to try to set up work , check in with my friends online, family in Northern Ireland, Michael in Italy etc…

There’s a lot of maintaining and work to do at the house, it’s a constant or nature and the elements can take over fast, but it’s work outside mostly and I love that. We also have our own water now, and a backup generator cos the power is out often. We are subjected to a lot of freakish sudden weather sometimes. My wife Abby Travis is a musician also, and we’ve made a pretty good studio in the old basement dug into the side of the hill. It sounds good. She works there more than I do.

My life is mostly keeping the house alive, then sporadic hard periods of work in LA to make money. I work on music here and there, but it needs to come naturally. Farflung I think has worked this way for a long time. There’s never been an urgency to release something, and we’ve never been on a big label that’s demanding a life on the road or a lot of commercial work opportunities. I don’t think back in the day we would have turned that down, but now we’re groaning old men. It works out ok I guess ha ha.

Michael :
I live in a small town in Northern Italy, on the banks of a river…
The opposite of Los Angeles, things here are slow and quiet….
A day usually consists of, in no particular order
Play with my cats….
House chores
Work on visual art
Work on music
Bake bread
Read

Farflung in 2021

You have been around in the psych/stoner/kraut scene in Europe and the USA for quite some time, what is or was the best time for this scene would you think and why? Can you share some memories?

Michael:
That’s difficult to say, when you’re young everything is new and exciting….
I hope the psych scene will keep rebirthing itself in interesting ways….

In terms of memories there are so many. Maybe meeting people and having the chance to play shows and collaborate. Roedelius, Going fishing with Damo, shrooms with Del and Nik, Dave Catching’s and BOC’s cooking and generosity, Ian Maclagan’s guitar, Hutch’s workshop. Tom Grimley’s noise bombs, Raging Slab‘s farm, Silver Apples, Gong, Amon Duul, Ronnie Wood, weird parties in the hills……I could go on and on and on……

Tommy

It’s always been my favorite genre. I grew up in the world of post punk and alternative, but as mark e smith said, know your history. Older friends and of course John peel taught us of the forefathers of it all, and this is what really interested me. I lived in the shadow of Hawkwind, Gong, and here and now, but it was upon discovering Can, and Neu I really got inspired to make the music I do. Yes, I grew up and played in garage bands in Belfast and the UK doing our version of our punk hero’s etc, but the cosmic route was the grounding rod.

After living briefly in london, I moved to Los Angeles in the mid 80s with this firm in my brain, and what surprised me was that space rock, krautrock awareness was almost non existent. I met some folk like Don Bolles of the Germs, and Damion Romero of Slug who loved the sounds of kraut especially Neu but that was it until I met Len del Rio, my partner in my first band Pressurehed, then Michael Esther of course in Farflung. Pressurehed was a cross pollination of industrial punk, and spacerock. I released about 3 Lps with that band and did many shows in the collage rock underbelly of Los Angeles. I had heard a few bands around the US spacerock scene, but apart from fi, Mars everywhere, alien planetscapes, architectural metaphors, and scattered planets, it seemed like a lot of bands were Hawkwind tributes or rather weak sounding pseudo prog cover bands. Pressurehed , Helianthus, and Farflung were always a movement combining trippy elements to take the influences and move it forward.


I also think as far as Hawkwind was concerned, people totally missed out here on the tribal, freak, political communal intent of the group of musicians I grew up listening to, and being artists trying to create a movement of radical and conceptual sound. Same goes for Amon Duul II, and Faust etc. You had people that were just not in a band for being a band, but movements including radical visual, theatrical and spoken word artists creating a movement. Later with psych I feel, things got really boring and predictable when rather square characters were basing their sound on pseudo metal concepts that I never understood. whilst I somewhat kinda loosely liked some metal, I thought it was mostly a cheesy gag . I still don’t understand the rather silly culture around it other than having a rocking when drunk like for the music, but a chuckle for the content.

Farflung I like to think, was more aligned with things cross pollinating in the early 90s with many influences. Like many folk might have quoted the Butthole Surfers with a rock vibe like Chrome or tg, Loop channeling- seminal Stooges, Spacemen 3 – vibing Suicide, I’d more think of us as a kinda Amon Duul, Ashra Temple, Cabaret Voltaire , sorta thing at the time. That’s just my opinion for what we were doing when we started. We were playing lots of free shows and collage gigs when we started, our roots were firmly planted in that atmosphere. We shared the stage with a very eclectic and diverse crowd of performers and audiences.

Farflung in 1995

Can you tell me specifically about the time 25000 FT was released? What was the status of the band at that time? What was the reception? Did you tour a lot…etc!

Michael:
It was a great time filled with lots of energy and musical experimentation.
Brandon and I were students at Calarts  and were tied into that scene. There were three schools: Calarts, Art Center and Layola Marymount, each had it own little music scenes and they cross pollinated in the East LA music scene……

Tommy:

It was a somewhat  unique crowd of people and performers all trying to create and melt in a mostly non rock environment in Los Angeles based around collage radio and individualism as I just described.

Europe is no stranger to themed events or outsider festivals, but it was rather non existent in Los Angeles where the band was based at the time we started. Apart from the odd event type things set up by likewise minds here and there, it was the usual hair band nightclub like venues where most bands had to run the boring gauntlet to get a gig.

We did not have any desire to be a part of that, so warehouse , art studios, loft gigs were more our thing. Most of these were themed evenings combining mixed media artists and performers. It was not necessarily a rock type thing.

When I met Michael, when his band Helianthus was playing gigs around the Calarts collage area and my band Pressurehed, around punk and loft venues. When Farflung was born, we were writing a lot and playing in this circuit when flipside magazine approached us to record our first lp 25000 ft.

We had known the work Tom Grimlry had been doing with Slug, the Haden sisters, Beck, Rod Pool, Polar Goldicats , Uphill Gardeners, etc, etc, and liked his sound. It was also important to me that there was a diversity and total individualism with each band, with the outcome being equal in productive freedom.

When we went there with our post punky, krauty alternate sounds it was a total un-challenged freedom to create that first lp. We have definitely weaved our way through different periods but the intent has never changed. We continued to play what I remembered as cool events and interesting evenings at that time.

Michael:
We did a few short tours. But it was difficult in those days in the states. We did one with Raging Slab and another short East Coast thing with Nik. Nik Turner and Farflung as the Sons of Cydonia…..

Tommy:
Long tours really weren’t an option.

 We would also jaunt up to sf at that time but that was the extent. When 25000 ft came out it was a very local underground type of deal. We had our fans and people but it was very localized.

During that period we realized demos and the cd were spreading between the collage radio stations and reaching the early networks of diehard spacerock fans. I was also keeping in contact a bit with some of the Hawkwind folk like Nik, Hawkwind guys, and Helios Creed.

Farflung live in 1995

Which or what influences have made you into the musician you are to today? Can you recall the moment you knew you just had to “go for it”?

Michael:
Music for me while growing up, was a thing that was always present. It gave me an overwhelming joy….
Music as well as books and visual art were mysterious and transported me to other worlds.
I just naturally gravitated to towards doing those activities.

I grew up in San Francisco,  the Stones  were playing. Probably the 1972 tour maybe the Winterland. There was footage on the evening news of Jagger dancing around with a huge scarf. To my parents  dismay, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I just wanted to dance around with scarves…I wanted to be just like him but I ended up  more like a damaged Richards. Tommy and I even to this day after a few whiskies  have been known to  break out our Jagger dances….

Tommy

As I said, early Hawkwind, Neu!, Can, Cabaret Voltaire, Amon Duul II, the Fall, This Heat, lots of post punk bands. But I also love early dub, severed heads, soundtrack music ect ect. The biggest influence though is the day to day experience and my band mates around me. I’ve always bounced ideas between me and Michael, and now Chris and Paul.
We’re a band in every sense of the word, I just tend to move rather fast on things and go off the wall here and there. As a kid, I remember the first time I had the go-for-it experience was probably hearing radio Luxembourg playing, neon lights by Kraftwerk in bed one night on a transistor radio.

I was just blown away by the simplicity and change in the rock dominated sound at that time. It really sounded to me like things had moved into modern times, and it did not mean anything to me specifically about synthesized sound or whatever, rather than I was entranced and moved by it. Not long before that, like most kids in Belfast, it was Never Mind The Bollocks. My gran was mortified when by accident she walked into my room when Johnny sung Bodies and dropped the tea tray. Also, they were all over the papers etc. I just loved them and that lp at the time. Fondness but not necessarily influence was watching Top of the pops in Ireland as a kid, Sparks, the Sweet, T-rex, Bowie, all that stuff in the mists of time.

What do you think about the psych “scene” today, is there one? Do you feel there is a lot of support for our music these days? Was it better before, and how?

Tommy
Yes. I am glad that in recent years, Wooden Shjips, Electric Moon, Dead Skeletons, etc are around, but also I the recent past Loop, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, 35007, the Heads etc are making sound. I don’t care for “stoner rock” or Sabbath clone rock, it’s overdone and always has been. It’s time to get over the desert thing. Most bands out there have been over that and moved on a long time ago. As I said before I don’t listen to progressive metal or any metal stuff for the most part, but don’t have any thing to say to people do. It’s their own bag. I’m a bit of a historian, I’m still discovering new bands from the past to this day. I’m a crazy record collector and have a lot of obscure and interesting things. I’m so caught up in discovery, I don’t really pay that much attention to the current. Paul in Farflung turns me on to a lot of new things. Some of them I’m like. It’s a pity we have not toured in a while due to Covid, as it’s a great opportunity to shatter the past and the now in the van.

The psychedelic music scene has of course always had associations with drug use, or at least being inspired by the use of certain psychedelics. In what way have you experienced drugs as an inspiration for your art?

Tommy:
Yes of course. I live up here in the wilds of Ulster co New York. There’s a lot of things growing in our woods, not also for the mind but also the body. I’ve learned a lot. I can’t think of any Farflung lp were it might not have played a part in something. My musical contribution with FF is a form of shamanism in some form or another. What grows is a gift.

Michael:
In my youth, it was about expanding my consciousness. A search for greater meaning and understanding. A type of slowed down focus….a soft world……but that’s a long time ago now. We’ve seen the upside and downside of that path……
In relation to our collective musical work. I am always searching for a kind of feeling inside the sound that we are making, that is difficult for me to locate with words. Sometimes we accomplish it and sometimes not….

Farflung live in 1995

Can you tell me about your current status? What about Farflung should be aware of or waiting for?

Michael:
I am hoping this year will be one of lots of activity. We have lots of ideas we are kicking around….

Tommy
We just finished a new lp that is in the works with Dave and Sulatron records. We are very happy to be working with our old friend. It’s basically mixed but who knows when it will come out.

(The pressing situation in general is quite dire and there’s a huge backlog dave has to deal with due to Covid,. )

It’s mixed and I just finished the artwork. I think it’s a natural progression from all the last Lps. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, but broaden the horizons. It’s a very natrual progress, and maybe this is the most cohesive recording from the most solid lineup of me, Mike, paul, and chris from the past, 10 years or so. It’s a transcendental journey that has the “Farflung flow” that is our signature, passages and journeys through the minds of the disturbed, euphoria, and unknown. I rather happy with it.

Which current artist do you like? Which artist would you like to read an interview with?

Tommy:
I kinda like the psych band A Place To Bury Strangers, but they seem to be getting rather popular and maybe have enough interviews already. Dave from Sula Basanna ‘s Loop Drones lp is astounding, I think maybe you just did one from him. I don’t know really.
I’ve never read an interview with Del Dettmar from Hawkwind. I know he lives alone in Kootenay Bay in British Columbia and has done so for the past 35 years. He played with the band Melodic Energy Commission in the past, but has been steadily making music on the VCS3 since he moved there. He lives alone in a cabin and used to plant trees out there . His music is very interesting and cosmic. I’d love to hear about what’s going on in his world.

Michael:
In terms of new artists Tommy is much more up on that than I am….
Del sounds like a great choice to me …..

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do directly after this interview?

Tommy:
Go outside and look up at he sky.

Michael:
Then look down, dig a hole and plant a seed….

Interview: Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (Sulatron Records, Electric Moon, Zone Six, and many more…)

Dave Schmidt

Where to begin introducing Dave Schmidt aka Sula Bassana? The German musician has been a household name in the psychedelic music scene for ages it seems, playing festivals and releasing records with his (ex-) bands Liquid Visions, Electric Moon, Zone Six, and many more. Not to mention running his own label, and releasing important albums by bands like Giobia, Saturnia, and Sun Dial. There is a ton of experience and interesting stories to explore here, so let’s dig in, because Dave is willing to share!

Can you tell me how you have managed as a musician and a label owner during the corona crisis so far? In what way(s) has it affected your ways?

For me as a single person in a single house in the countryside it made no big difference in life. Only the sales got really low because everyone was in fear and stopped buying unnecessary stuff. But after a while it slowly got a bit better. And I’m happy I received some help (money) from the government one time, which helped me to survive.
Also I am burnt out and need some rest and much less gigs. So it came at the right time for me. And I moved into a new house (new, hahahaha, 200 years old and a total mess) where I had (and still have) to renovate a lot. And we played a few gigs anyway, which was nice.

Can you tell me a little bit of where and how you live and how you usually go about your day?

I live in a small farmers village near the beautiful Kellerwald (wood area) in northern part of Hesse (a county in the middle of Germany). I work around 6-12 hours a day for the label/shop/promo… and sometimes (very seldom at the moment) I make some music or do long walks in the woods.

Sula at work

You have been around in the psych/stoner/kraut scene in Europe for quite some time, what is or was the best time for this scene would you think and why? Can you share some memories?

Uh, in 35 years on stage there are a lot of stories. Don’t know which ones to pick out. I always had some great times and some bad ones. The best time for this scene is always, hahahaha. It always was a small scene (I mean the psychedelic/acid/kraut scene, not the stoner/doom/metal scene, this one is MUCH bigger!) with just a few bands and possibilities. I started in the 80s with electronic music and we had some nice highlights as playing in 2 Berlin Planetariums (at Insulaner and Zeiss Großplanetarium), making small cassette tape issues as our releases, and contributed some tracks to CD samplers and a vinyl sampler (in 1987). Later, in the 90s, with Liquid Visions we played some sixties style psychedelic with some pretty spaced out psych rock jams, with full liquid light shows and blacklight performance. Maybe it was 20 years too late or too early, not many people might remember this band, but we released 5 vinyl albums and played around 10 years! Mostly in Berlin, but also in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic and Switzerland. So, there were plenty of funny stories.


In 1997 I founded the free form impro spacekraut band Zone Six, which is still active and will have its 25th anniversary next year. 2 vinyl-albums to celebrate it are already in the pressing plant. We jammed with some guests over the years: Nik Turner, Huw Lloyd Langton (both Hawkwind), and Ax Genrich (early Guru Guru)!
Later (in 1998) I was drummer in Growing Seeds, a band who travelled to Portugal in several camping vehicles to record an album. That was a fantastic and strange trip, with recording sessions at spectacular places. Best was a (I guess) 100 meters high cliff, were the shore was loudly breaking below and we were jamming on top of the rocks. Sadly we never released these recordings, except just a 7“ ep.
I also have played some gigs in a acid rock trio with Ax Genrich and Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru) and had some more projects.

Growing Seeds


When I moved to Austria for a few years I played in a indie rock band called Alice Dog and founded Interkosmos with Pablo Carneval (later Zone Six and Electric Moon) and Sergio Ceballos (Mohama Saz, ex Rip KC, Melange) for some serious spaced out music. We played gigs in Austria and Spain and made one album. After 2 years we split because Sergio went back to Spain and I moved back to Germany. But we are back after a 12 years hiatus, had 2 gigs this year and started new recordings!


In 2009 we founded Electric Moon with Pablo and Komet Lulu. Our first gig was at the legendary Duna Jam in Italy and we released a huge amount of albums. This is the most known band I’m a member of I would say. We played (almost) all over Europe and had a fantastic residency week and festival in Tunisia in 2019!
We also did some albums with a project that lived only for 3 days or so, called Krautzone. This is real krautrock!
Sorry for telling my history in very short words here. Just to show you it is hard to pick out some special moments. There are so many… 🙂

Electric Moon and Talea Jacta

About Electric Moon: can you tell me a bit more about how you got to know Lulu and Pablo and how you managed to stay creative and prolific for such a long time? And are you only in a band together or are you also friends outside of music would you say?

When I moved to Austria in 2006 I met Pablo (Bernhard Fasching) at concerts of his band The Blowing Lewinsky and we became friends. Actually he is one of my closest friends! He started playing drums in Interkosmos and later I met Lulu and she moved into the cold house in the woods where I lived and we became a couple for several years. When Lulu wanted to start a band we did some recordings as a duo (I played the drums in the very first recordings and overdubbed Guitar and Organ then. You find the tracks on Lunatics & Lunatics Revenge). But this way was a bit frustrating so we invited Pablo to join us and the first recording became Moon Love. So it worked very well from the beginning. When Lulu and I moved back to Germany Pablo left and we had some years of changing drummers, but in 2017 he joined us again and is still the drummer. Last year we invited Joe Muff to play Guitar in Electric Moon, so we have been 4 members since a while.

Growing Seeds

Could you elaborate a bit more about Growing Seeds? It sounds like a really awesome and important event in your musical journey! Also the pictures are great; real Pink Floyd-y :))) Can you tell me what influence those jams had on your later career?

Oh, that was a story… We played some gigs together with my band Liquid Visions, and also with Zone Six, around 1997/98 and all 3 bands were booked for the Burg Herzberg Festival in 1998. So a few days before the festival I went down to Bayreuth (where they lived) to have some nice days with them (we instantly became good friends when we met at the first concert with our bands). First evening we jammed a bit and I played the drums. Next day we found a note from the Growing Seeds drummer, that he moved to Nürnberg and left the band. Bang! 3 days before a nice festival gig! So they looked at me and asked if I could replace him. I never played drums in a band and didn’t know all their live tracks, so we rehearsed hard for 3 days and already made a new song in those days too and then played the concert. It was big fun and so I became their drummer. I hitchhiked from Berlin to the gigs we had, only equipped with my pair of sticks (really only one pair! Hahahaha). That was so much fun that I decided to move to Bayreuth in late summer 1998. I quickly bought a 1968 Trixon Drumset and some hardware in Berlin and then moved to Bayreuth. Suddenly the idea was born to go to Portugal to record an album somewhere in nature. We borrowed some camping mobiles, stored our equipment in the vehicles and went down south in October 1998. It was a super intense trip with tons of stories. Enough for a nice little book. We recorded 12 tapes on my kassette 8-track in several spots in Portugal, but never released these monumental jams. Only a 3 track 7“ EP that runs on 33 on one side and on 45 on the other side (incl. 2 tracks from the coast) was released (Pleitegeier Records). In early 1999 we split up due to private reasons and I moved back to Berlin. The first pair of sticks was still in use! 😀

Growing Seeds, playing in a meadow in Portugal


I’m still in touch with these people. Andi and I did another Weltraumstaunen album some later. Silke (Ellipopelli) and I started Südstern 44 together when she moved to Berlin, but after a CD and CD-R I left Berlin. In 2006 we did the Sula Bassana and the Nasoni Pop Art Experimental Band Vol. 1 album for Nasoni Records, which will be re-issued in 2022.
The Keyboarder Vuzz T. (Sebastian Züger), plus Hale Prob (Holger Probst), a friend of him, and me started the Space Shuttle Pilots project with several recordings, one concert but no official release, except a cool video which is hard to find on youtube.
Growing Seeds and all the experiences with these people made of course a deep impact into my soul. Silke and Vuzz T. are still very close friends of mine.

Can you tell me what it has been like starting up and maintaining your own music label? Would you recommend it to anyone? Why or why not?

After a long time without a proper job it was the only way to survive for me. I worked hard to get into the business and still do. But I’m so happy I did it. For me it was the right way after being a musician for more than 20 years. I started in a time when not many labels in the psychedelic rock direction were active, which is completely different to today. Which makes it even harder to survive. So, I can not really recommend it. It brings not much money and is tons of work. But I run my label for over 15 years now and have a strong base in the meantime. And I release and promote my own music too, which makes it easier for me to do nothing else than this job. 

Are there stories to tell about certain artists on your label and how you met them? Saturnia or Giobia for instance? How did you get to know them? And how do you rather get to know new artists? I bet you get a lot of demo admissions…

In most cases I prefer to release music of people I know personally.
Sometimes music I found somewhere and went in touch with the band then. But this is mostly only for an album, not many real friendships happen this way.
Or just asking bands even though I think they will never reply, like Sun Dial. But they did and now we are friends and I can release a lot of their wonderful music.
Giobia just sent me a demo which I liked. So I asked for more and got the chance to take my favourite tracks for the first release I did with them. After the second release things got weird, so we ended our relationship.
Saturnia is a band/project I have really liked for almost two decades. I sold a lot of Luis’ stuff via my shop, which was released so far by Elektrohasch. Elektrohasch is one of the few labels I work directly with. But Stefan stopped releasing non-Colour Haze-acts, so he was interested in handing Saturnia over to Sulatron, which was a fast decision for me to make! I really love this album I released!

Luis Simoes of Saturnia

Which or what influences have made you into the musician you are today? Can you recall the moment you knew you just had to “go for it”?

Oh, there were several. It all started in the 70s when I fell in love with synthesizer sounds. So for me it was clear that I will do electronic music when I get the opportunity. So with the years some gear was collected and I started playing concerts in several electronic duos, trios and solo. But when I saw Hawkwind playing for the first time (early 90s) I was so fascinated by Alan Davey’s sound that I decided to quit electronic music and start playing bass. And since then I love to play every instrument I get between my fingers. 🙂

Dave’s first band Liquid Visions

What do you think about the European “scene” today, is there one? Do you feel there is a lot of support for our music these days? Was it better before, and how?

As I told already there is no real scene for my kind of music. Only a few bands get the chance to play at bigger festivals or tour more than a weekend. Except Electric Moon, which has some doomy moments which makes it more popular, and we play a lot of festis. And I’m thankful there are some really open minded festivals around, such as Yellowstock (Belgium), Roadburn (Netherlands) or Kozfest (UK), where you can see really far out  bands from all countries. But most of the nice small and cozy festivals are not existing anymore, which is very sad.

The psychedelic music scene has of course always had associations with drug use, or at least being inspired by the use of certain psychedelics. In what way have you experienced drugs as an inspiration for your art?

Oh, acid was a big changer in my music back in the 90s. It had a deep impact and changed my own music and taste in a great way. But I don’t recommend any drug use. Everyone must decide for her/himself.

Can you tell me about your latest works? Which records should be one everyone’s mind right now and why?

My very new Sula Bassana CD (2-LP will be out in summer next year on Pancromatic Records) is called Loop Station Drones and contains tracks I did in spontaneous sessions all alone, plus loopstations, effect pedals, a drumcomputer and a bunch of Instruments, in 3 evenings. These are almost live played tracks with only a little post production and sound relaxed and trancy.


Also freshly out is the album Sabotar (CD and LP, marbled 180 gr. wax, lim. to 500!) by Electric Moon together with Portugal’s psychedelic trance duo Talea Jacta. The music was created live as one band with all members from both bands and is completely improvised live on stage of the legendary Sabotage Club in Lisbon during the concert in 2019. This is a really tripped out cosmic krautrock of the experimental kind.


And I just finished a new solo album with more band orientated songs, with Drums, Bass, Guitars and everything. I started recording in 2013 but didn’t find the time and energy to finish earlier. But it will definitely be released next year!
Ah, and around April next year will be the release of a 15 years old album, I made with a bunch of friends back then, called Sula Bassana and the Nasoni Pop Art Experimental Band (Vol.1) and came out originally in 2006 on Nasoni Records Berlin, to celebrate Nasoni’s 10 years anniversary. And now, 15 years later (sadly the LP is delayed to 2022, argh!) it is the 25 years Nasoni anniversary album. It will come with a new artwork, 2 patches, and on 180 gr. colour vinyl, limited to 500 copies.


And next year we have 25th anniversary of my band Zone Six! To celebrate it I already have 2 albums in the pressing plant, a 10“ EP with 2 songs from our second recording session (1997) and the vinyl re-issue of the debut album (recorded 1997 and only released on cassette tape) which was out in 1998 on CD only and with overdubbed vocals by a friend from Australia (Jodi Barry). In 2017 I released this album in the original instrumental version on vinyl (as 20 years anniversary LP) and it sold out fast. So there will be a re-issue of that LP with slightly changed cover and with 2-colour vinyl!

Can you tell me when a record becomes a Sula Bassana record and when Zone Six or Electric Moon? What is the deciding factor creatively? And how do you separate all your musical endeavors?

That’s easy, because it always depends on the people I play with. Electric Moon is a band with members, so it is Electric Moon. And so with Interkosmos and Krautzone. In Zone Six people change from time to time. And everything I do alone will become a Sula Bassana release.

What are the plans with Electric Moon recording-wise? And how about live? Will there be any more future Planetarium sessions for instance?

We just returned from a intense concert at the Desertfest in Gent (Belgium). And we will have another concert at November 26 at the Vortex Surfer Club in Siegen (Germany). Sarkh, the band run by Electric Moon’s new second guitar wizard Joe Muff, will play that night also.
We all for sure hope that we will play at Planetarium Bochum again. But as far as I know there is nothing fixed so far.
I guess we finished 2 new tracks for a 4-band split double LP which will be out on Komet Lulu’s label Worst Bassist Records next year. You will find one LP side by Kungens Män, ElonMusk and Kanaan, next to us.
And we recorded more and will go on recording for a new album.

Growing Seeds in Portugal

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do directly after this interview?

Whatever they want 🙂
Stay healthy, peaceful and psychedelic. Listen to good music, enjoy nature and animals, be nice to others, laugh, love and spread good vibes! 🙂

Thanks for the long interview!!!
Love and peace
Dave

Fotocredits: Kilian Schloemp

Elara Sunstreak Band- Vostok 1 (2021 Sulatron Records)

I hope Elara Sunstreak Band will forgive me for taking a bit longer to review their album than most publishers, but I’m sure they know what it is like because on Vostok 1 they kind of make an art out of “taking a bit longer to do things”; well over fifteen minutes per song to be precise…

So aside from impressively stretching up their songs, what else can we expect from this German quartet? Epicness, packed in psych-laced jam rock with stoner tendencies. Opener Nexus is a mountain taming riff fest, evoking equal parts Tool, Soundgarden, and a quintessential stoner band like Stoned Jesus.

On A Drink With Jim obviously celebrates the Jim of Jims and his Doors of perception with a hazy organ-lead jam that deliciously meanders on in a modern version of The End or When The Music’s Over, not just freely referencing Morrison in its lyrics but also in overall feel and atmosphere. For personal reasons this song is my favorite on Vostok 1. I am a big fan of The Doors myself, and if you ask me there just can’t be enough musical nods in their direction ever. Especially when a band like Elara Sunstreak Band pays tribute but also adds plenty of their own. I bet Jim would agree.

The title track Vostok 1 is, as its moniker suggests a tribute of a different kind, namely to the first manned space exploration to the moon by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. It is a deliciously spacey endeavor, starting off ominous and quietly, and then gradually lifting off into space, to the moon, and back. Basist/vocalist Daniel Wieland narrates the space travel in a epic wailing manner that fits the pace and atmosphere quite well reminding at times of Elder frontman Nick DiSalvo, the way it glides up and down the progressive guitar riffs. It is a constant factor that nicely ties the album together and makes sure its wide variations remain part of a bigger whole.

The album closes with Orange October, the closes Elara Sunstreak Band has ever come to a power ballad. It is a song that chooses subdued guitars and powerful chorusses over amplifier violence, and it closes this epic album off quite well. Vostok 1 shows the listeners that some less is not more, and that sometimes just jamming and losing all sense of time and place is the way to go. All the way into space, and far beyond.

A/lpaca- Make It Better (2021 Sulatron Records)

Is there ever enough King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard music? Considering their ever-growing discography the Australian psych garage heroes themselves don’t seem to think so, and neither do the Italian psych heads of A/lpaca, as they truly wear their influences on their sleeves. The real question is: do they really Make It Better? Well, it’s probably better to let the listener be the real judge of that, but I can say that this debut album is as enjoyable as it is impressive.

First of all; all of the songs on Make It Better are memorable ear worms that will quickly nestle themselves in your earholes and make you hum along phrases like “death in the citadel!”, “Make it better” and “bring me to the city…”, so that’s already a job well done in a genre that often tends to focus on atmosphere and less on proper songwriting. There’s plenty to move your limbs to as well, with A/lpaca focussing strongly on postpunk-y drums and faster paced jams in line with King Gizzard songs like Robot Stop and Rattlesnake.

I do have to say that the songs on Make It Better are a bit less intricate and layered, and might even come across a bit one dimensional, but in return they slam a whole lot of directness and urgency on the table, which definitely counts for something I guess.

In conclusion I’d like to point out that I hate having to compare A/lpaca to their Australian peers so much, but they should probably take it as a compliment. After all, there really aren’t many weirdo psych garage bands out there with a similarly fierce and adventurous approach, and definitely not in Europe. So I do think once the borders re-open, these guys have their work cut out for them touring!

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